(Note: See Kari Boldon Welch’s review of Ride the Cyclone at eugenescene.org)

By Randi Bjornstad

The real Cyclone, of course, is a centerpiece ride in Luna Park at Coney Island, located a longish subway ride from New York City’s Midtown Manhattan to the southeastern tip of Brooklyn.  It’s a wooden roller coaster that opened in June 1927, and it’s not for the faint of heart (including me).

One description of the Cyclone puts it this way: The Cyclone reaches a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour and has a total track length of 2,640 feet — exactly a half-mile — with a maximum height of 85 feet.

The historic ride faced possible destruction in the mid-1960s, but millions of dollars were raised to refurbish and run it, and it reopened to great fanfare in the summer of 1975. It was designated an official landmark of New York City in 1988, and won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

So who could be surprised at turning the venerable Cyclone into the centerpiece of a Broadway-style musical? That happened in 2008, when Ride the Cyclone premiered in Victoria, B.C., Canada, before moving on to Toronto, then a tour of Western Canada. It had its U.S. debut in Chicago in 2016 and ended the year with an off-Broadway limited run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, which coincidentally — and maybe appropriately — opened in NYC’s West Village in 1926, the year before The Cyclone made its Coney Island debut.

The musical is the creative work — book, music, and lyrics — of Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell.

But on to the nuts-and-bolts

The plot, as summarized by Oregon Contemporary Theatre, is this: “Ride The Cyclone follows six teenagers from a Canadian chamber choir whose lives are cut short in a freak roller coaster accident. Stuck in the afterlife, a mechanical fortune teller gives them a chance to sing their way back to life.”

That mechanical fortune teller, incidentally, exists to this day at Coney Island, in the form of Zoltar the Fortune Teller, who occupies a glass booth from which he dispenses his prognostications with a heavy accent that some have described as Hungarian.

The cast

Ride the Cyclone at OCT features the following characters/(actor names in parentheses): Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg (played by Madeline Braun); Constance Blackwood (Annie Craven); Noel Gruber (Avery Hoggans); Rat (Samantha Holden); Ricky Potts (Ethan Kemper); Mischa Bachinsky (Matthew Michaels); Rat (Blake “Teddy” Nelson); and The Amazing Karnak (Lee Vogt).

The show is recommended for audiences ages 12 years and older because of its adult themes.

The creative team

OCT’s production is directed by Craig Willis, with music direction by Delos Leo Erickson and choreography by Alexander Holmes.

Additional crew members include Jeffrey Cook (scenic design); Erin Wills (costumes); Emily K. Bolivar (lighting); Ryan Rusby (sound and projections); Amy Weinkauf (properties); Julianne Bodner (associate scenic design); Quinn Connell and Donovan Snider (associate sound and projection design).

Ride the Cyclone at Oregon Contemporary Theatre

When: Evenings at 7:30 p.m. on March 9, 14-16, 22-23; matinees at 2 p.m. on March 10 and 17

  • (Note: Only wheelchair-accessible seating is available at this time on March 17; if ordering online, do not select these seats if not using a wheelchair. Call 541-465-1506 for more information.)

Where: Oregon Contemporary Theatre, 194 W. Broadway, Eugene

Tickets: $25 (obstructed view); $39-$49; $20 for students with valid ID, available online at octheatre.org, by telephone at 541-465-1506